Allan Moise Rukundo knows what it’s like to feel completely isolated and alone.
That’s how he felt when he arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2009.
Having already “walked the walk” so to speak, Mr Rukundo today knows what’s needed to help Wollongong’s newly arrived refugees better adapt to life in a foreign land.
That’s why he joined forces with refugee advocate Monique Bolus and Ernest Bukasa Bukasa to form community organisation Connect A.
The not-for-profit organisation’s aim is to address social isolation for people who are newly arrived from refugee backgrounds in the Wollongong area.
“We felt compelled to start this organisation because we see how critical community connection and belonging is, especially for young people who are newly arrived,” Miss Bolus said.
“My friends who formed Connect A with me are from refugee backgrounds themselves, and want to make a difference in the journeys of others who could benefit greatly from knowing that they are welcome here and being connected to others in the community.”
Mr Rukundo said it was very hard for him to connect with people and get what he needed when he arrived in Wollongong nine years ago.
“It was hard as I didn’t speak English well, I didn’t know where to go to get what I needed and didn’t yet understand the culture of Australians,” he said.
“I got thinking that refugees today are probably facing the same problems I encountered. That’s how the idea came to form Connect A (Australia).”
Wollongong City Council has also thrown its support behind the group, which will hold its first event at Cringila Community Centre on Saturday, September 15.
The organisers expect about 70 people to attend the day of “fun, food and friendship”.
The free family friendly event, which runs from 12 to 2pm, aims to foster new friendships and give new families the chance to meet other families in the community keen to “welcome our newest members”.
“Food and music is a universal language which we hope will connect new neighbours,” Mr Rukundo said.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to attend or for more details.